Fauci says people need to wear face masks through 2021 even if we have a Covid-19 vaccine

The reason is partly because the first batch of vaccines are unlikely to be perfect enough to shield people from Covid-19, experts said


                            Fauci says people need to wear face masks through 2021 even if we have a Covid-19 vaccine
(Getty Images)

The arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine does not mean the end of face masks — at least until next year, Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, reportedly said in an interview. He added that people should continue adhering to infection control measures through 2021, even if we have vaccines ready.

"I said a combination of an effective vaccine and adherence to certain public-health principles will get us to the point where we want to be, by the end of 2021," Fauci told Business Insider. "I never said just the vaccine. You never should abandon the public health measures."

This is because the first batch of vaccines is unlikely to be perfect enough to shield people from Covid-19. Typically, it takes about 10-15 years to develop and test a vaccine. The pandemic has forced scientists to race against time to accelerate their development. But they will likely be only 70% effective, given the time constraints, experts have said.

Currently, about 29 vaccines are being tested on human volunteers. Data on some of these potential vaccines is expected to come out in the next couple of months. "I feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a safe and effective vaccine by the end of this calendar year," Fauci told Business Insider. "I said November-December, others say October. I think it's unlikely in October, but maybe, you never know," he added.

Dr Robert Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Getty Images)

Dr Robert Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also made a case for face coverings last week. "We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense," he told the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. "I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine." 

Redfield said the first Covid-19 vaccines would not be available for everyone, estimating that they would likely be only 70% effective. According to the CDC, vaccine efficacy measures a reduction in cases among people who received a shot. "So a Vaccine efficacy of 90% indicates a 90% reduction in disease occurrence among the vaccinated group or a 90% reduction from the number of cases you would expect if they have not been vaccinated.

A measles shot, for instance, is 93% effective. The odds of the first Covid-19 shots being 98% effective is slim, Fauci earlier said. The US Food and Drug Administration said it was ready to authorize a coronavirus vaccine if it proves safe and is at least 50% successful in triggering an immune response to the virus.

"If I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face mask will," Redfield told lawmakers. He advised Americans, especially those aged between 18 and 25, to continue wearing face coverings, adding that they could bring the pandemic under control in weeks if it is adopted universally.

Others have also agreed. "You still need to wear that mask," Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, recently told Business Insider. "What worries me is people are going to see this vaccine as a magic dust that's going to go over our country and make this virus stop. It doesn't work that way."

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